“There [in the Promised Land] You would have had them led by judges, but they, wanting to be like other peoples, preferred to have kings. So You gave them kings, but they often did what displeased You” (Praise of the Blessed Trinity).
The drama surrounding the people of Israel was not over. After Joshua’s death, the Israelites turned away from the Lord and served the Baals. They followed the gods of the surrounding peoples (Judg 2:11-12). As a rebuke, the Lord delivered them into the hands of the robbers and the enemies around them (v. 14). They were no longer victorious in the wars and fell into great misery.
“Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the power of those who plundered them. And yet they did not listen to their judges” (v. 16-17a).
“Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge” (v. 18), for our Father had compassion on the Israelites. “But whenever the judge died, they turned back and behaved worse than their fathers, going after other gods” (v.19).
The last of the Judges was Samuel. When the hour of his death approached, he instituted his sons as judges. However, all the Elders of Israel called out to him: “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations” (1 Sam 8:5).
Samuel was displeased by this request, but the Lord answered him in prayer: “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (v. 7).
Samuel warned them forcefully, laying out for them all that a king would demand of them. But the people would not listen.
Our Father, who wanted to lead His people directly, gives us the right interpretation: it was He – with His love and care – whom they rejected. And the consequence was that the kings often did what was displeasing to the Lord.